It used to be that the NFL would have two separate roster cutdowns in the offseason. First, teams would cut down to 75 players, shortly before the preseason finale. Then they would have to assemble their 53-man roster shortly after that games, with the ability to put together the practice squad afterward when players clear waivers.
The league did away with the separate roster cuts a couple of years ago, so now teams cut down from 90 to 53 in one fell swoop, immediately leaving over 1000 players around the league unemployed. The cuts won’t be nearly as drastic this year, in part because every team by now is down to only 80 players.
But according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, there are teams who are considering making early cuts to get rosters down to 69 players. That is not a random number, of course. With 16-man practice squads this year, that total encompasses both the 53-man roster and the squad.
“As one high-level source with one specific team told PFT on Saturday, teams may cut to 69 players in advance of the deadline for reducing to 53”, he wrote in a recent article. “This would encompass the full roster plus 16 practice-squad players, sending a clear message to the players who remain that they are firmly in the team’s plans”.
The apparent motivation behind this move would be to let players know early on that they are in their plans moving forward, that, if you are not with us, then at least you will be with somebody, the latter sentiment applying to the 16 players who would have to be exposed to waivers in order to be re-signed to the practice squad.
Presumably, teams would be interested in doing that this year perhaps as a means of encouraging these players to ensure that they are on their best behavior. Once they have even an informal declaration of assurance that the team intends to keep them, perhaps they will be more diligent and responsible in their behavior, particularly off the field, so that they don’t risk slipping up.
While this is only 11 players, I do question whether or not this will really happen, or if it will be widespread. That’s still 11 fewer players that you are giving yourself the opportunity to practice with, even if it is the number of players you will have in the regular season, and you won’t need those players to play in the preseason.
One side effect of this that we may see if it does happen is a shuffling of rosters. Inevitably there will be some players out of the 352 that would be cut if every team were to do this that others would want to claim off waivers. We’ve already seen players being claimed, so there’s no reason it won’t happen with players 70-80.